How much does your family spend on food?
If you’re like most, food is one of your top three expenses (the other two being housing and transportation). While it’s an essential expense for sure, but when digging around those receipts, we’re probably finding out just how much those lunches out and dinners picked up on the way home is truly costing us. In fact with one survey, it found that families spend about 43% of their food budget eating out! A big reason why we do it is that we’re stressed from work and taking care of the kids, we go for the convenient options.
It’s not only hurting our waistlines but our budgets.
Frugal Foodie 101: How to Cut Your Grocery Bill
Here’s the reality (at least for us). One, I love being a foodie. We want healthy and delicious meals. Two, we have a life and we want to enjoy it so we’re not interested in meals that take up a ton of time to prepare. Our kids are at the age where they want to help out and I’m going to take advantage of that so I need recipes that a third-grader can handle.
While I love a great deal, I’m not willing to cut my costs to the bone by going with cheap eats that are highly processed and not really filling anyways. I’d rather be smarter with my spending so that I’m enjoying my meals and keeping costs reasonable. Sound impossible? It’s not.
Let me show you how you can slash your grocery bill and make your meals less stressful and more delicious!
Grocery Shopping Tips You Need to Know
Let’s start with the foundation of being a frugal foodie – mastering grocery runs.
We used to go in and hunt around, looking for sales. We’d come out with bags of food which included some extras we hadn’t intended on picking up. Then by week’s end, we discovered we had wasted food in the fridge because we hadn’t used those fresh ingredients in time. Money down the drain. We now have a better way to shop.
Make Your Shops Rewarding
Since we need to be at the grocery store anyway, why don’t we save some money? Apps like iBotta and Fetch make it easy to trim that grocery bill with just your phone.
Before you shop, see if there are any deals on items you were going to pick up anyways. Add them to your list and scan your receipts to get a rebate!
The Mind of a Chef
If you’d look at your meals for the past month, you’d probably see that certain dishes keep coming up. Not only is that normal, but it can also be a great cost and time saver. How?
First off, you can start seeing if you can pick ingredients that can be used in several dishes instead of just one. Former chef and now personal finance writer Julien Saunders pointed out that successful restaurants shop with the idea of cross-utilization. Many fast-casual restaurants places, keep a relatively slim inventory of different ingredients that they can then use to create several dishes. (Think how Chipotle can use the same items for tacos, burritos, and bowls).
We found simply writing down a list of regular go-to dishes with their ingredients can help us with groceries. We waste less, which is a win for our wallets.
Shop in Season
Eating seasonally can save you some significant money at the grocery stores, especially if you like to shop organic. When you shop for produce when it’s in season, you tend to get a good amount at the fraction of the ‘regular’ price.
By the way, if you do like to go organic, but you’re on a budget, check this list to make sure you’re getting a good deal and not overpriced hype.
Easy Meal Prep for Busy Parents
It might not sound exciting, but a huge help for us to resist the temptation of ordering delivery or picking up meals on the way home is meal prepping. And no, you do not need to break out a calendar and meticulously plan every single meal you eat. As Meal Planning on a Budget author Jen Smith pointed out, meal prepping can be as complicated or as easy as you like.
For us, meal prepping simply involves taking a few minutes each weekend before the Sunday run to think about the three or four main dishes we’d like for dinner. Using that as a guide we can then break it down by ingredients and create a shopping list that allows me to knock it out in about 20-30 minutes. When I get home, I roughly portion ingredients out into meal servings (using my trusty freezer bags). I may also chop up some vegetables for the next day’s dinner. A small amount of prep, but very handy when we’re having a busy night.
Learn The Art of Freezing and Slow Cooking
Another way we’ve reduced waste while still snagging those in-season deals is by freezing and preserving our foods. Even if you only focus on freezing, you can easily stock up on vegetables and fruit.
An essential tool to have in your kitchen is a slow cooker (or Instapot). If you’re pressed for time, it’s one of the easiest ways you can throw a meal together while you’re hanging out with the kids on the weekends. You can also make a meal or two ahead on Saturday or Sunday if you know you’ll be pressed for time in the evenings.
It’s easier to skip on those last-minute meals out if you have something at home you simply need to heat up.
Your Take on Being a Frugal Foodie
Eating well on a budget is an essential skill to not only making ends meet but having less stress!
When you have a minute, go ahead and use an app like Mint to see how much you’re spending now. Once you have that number in mind, use these tips to see how much you can save with your groceries.
Once you do, please share which tips worked the best for you.
Elle helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second.